Getting involved in the Syrian civil war is a bad idea for America. We have no legitimate reason to do it and many reasons not to.
I've said for months that the Syrian rebels are not a homogenous group of democrats, but a mixed group of democrats and Islamists. Those in favor of interfering have argued that we are capable of reserving our help for the democrats while avoiding arming the Islamists. This is misguided at best.
The Israel Defense Forces' chief of military research agrees, according to a Times of Israel article:
An extensive global jihad center is developing right on Israel’s doorstep, the IDF’s head of military research Aviv Kochavi said Tuesday evening, warning about throngs of Islamist fighters streaming into Syria.
“In front of our eyes, right in our backyard, a global center for jihad is developing, which can affect not only Syria and Israel but also Lebanon, Jordan, and the Sinai Peninsula, and can radiate to the entire region,” the major general said at a graduation ceremony for intelligence officers.
The article refers to examples of Islamist terror groups fighting the Assad regime, such as the merger of the Nusra Front, an extremist rebel faction, with Iraq's al-Qaeda branch in April.
If the rebels do manage to take down Assad, another civil war between the democrats and the Islamists seems likely. It also seems likely that the Islamists could win. A jihadi home on Israel's border is a terrifying prospect, and gives further reason to be wary of any interference on behalf of the rebels.
New Pentagon assessments of the situation offer further evidence for the case against intervention. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey has laid out the potential options for military interference and none of them are good.
The options, which range from training opposition troops to conducting airstrikes and enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria, are not new. But General Dempsey provided details about the logistics and the costs of each. He noted that long-range strikes on the Syrian government’s military targets would require “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines and other enablers,” and cost “in the billions.”
According to Dempsey, "training, advising, and assisting" the rebels would cost approximately $500 million a year. If the U.S. decided to implement a no-fly zone, as hawkish Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham so desperately want, it would cost an astounding $1 billion a month.
We're already $16 trillion in debt. We can't exactly afford to start tacking on extra millions or billions for ill-conceived military interventions.
Syria is a mess, but none of the possibilities are ideal for U.S. foreign interests. Every possible outcome has serious drawbacks, so let's stay out of this and keep the debt from getting that much higher.
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